Hair-raising happenings at Avenue Campus – FACT OR FICTION?
Bridget Clay investigates the spooky goings on down at Avenue…
Southampton Uni’s Avenue Campus is home to the whole Humanities faculty. Whether you’re in the café, the computer rooms or even just sat on the sofas, it seems to buzz with students all the time and its mini-campus feel is incomparable to any other building at the Uni. But according to night staff, some chilling goings on are commonplace once it turns dark and the 2000-odd students filling the corridors and seminar rooms have gone.
It starts off at roughly 1am, I am told by Sam* (a security guard at the Campus who regularly does the night-shifts). Sat in the reception area at the edge of the modern extension, he often hears feet pounding from upstairs, as if someone’s running along the corridor in the central square-shaped part of the building (the oldest bit).
This part of the building has in the past been home to Taunton’s school (from about the 1860’s-1930’s), the Southampton tramsheds, and, rumour has it, an ancient Indian burial ground. During wartime it was also made into a hospital (as were several unused large buildings). During this time one of the nurses accidentally killed a soldier by giving him too much morphine, and went on to kill herself : all in a room which is now the bottom seminar room in the South corridor (1113, in you’re interested). One of the cleaners refuses to go into this room on her early shift (from about 5am).
Hearing mysterious crashing – possibly of doors and furniture – from the same place is also standard procedure, according to Sam…so if you’ve ever gone into one of your regular seminar rooms at Avenue and the tables are in a different position, now you know why.
Sam’s relaxed and nonchalant attitude when he was telling me this made me think he was pulling my leg, so I asked him the key question – is he a keen believer in ghosts and ghost stories? He replied no; he didn’t believe in them until he started working here. But now, after what he’s experienced, he’s so used to it that it just doesn’t scare him any more.
Still doubtful and a bit sceptic however, I spoke to another security guard. He’s worked at Avenue doing night shifts for 5 years, and is still just as sceptical about that sort of thing as when he first started. He couldn’t deny that it can get a bit creepy, though, and he can see why certain security guards at the Uni refuse to do the night shift there. One night when he first started, hearing a funny airing noise, he walked through the café seats towards the North corridor to follow the noise, before realising that it was the drinks vender. Relieved, he turned round to head back to the reception desk, but froze on the spot as he caught a glimpse of the door to the opposite South Corridor closing on its own, followed by that unmistakable sticking sound.
Make of these anecdotes what you will. It’s hard to imagine, when the place is swarming with students and the atmosphere is so lively most of the time. Despite what I heard from the security guards, and that hands-under-the-toilet-door story that we’ve all heard, I for one am sceptical… but still, I don’t think I’ll be making any late-night trips to Avenue anytime soon.